George Mason University Launches Amazon-Partnered Cloud Computing Degree

Should higher ed degree programs incorporate additional skills credentials and certifications within them employers are specifically looking for?

Dr. Michelle Marks, Vice President for Academic Innovation and New Ventures at George Mason University joined the podcast to talk about their new cloud computing degree in partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA).

Offering a Bachelor’s in Cloud Computing in Partnership with Amazon Web Services

“For students, this is really the right degree at the right time,” Michelle said.

In the Greater Washington, D.C. area, “there are thousands of cloud-based businesses and players are telling us that they need so much more tech talent,” Michelle said.

“Students have tons of jobs available when they graduate,” she added.

This partnership started with NOVA’s partnership with AWS. George Mason currently takes approximately half of its starting class, about 3,000 students a year, from NOVA, which offers a two-year Associate’s degree where students take cloud-based courses. 

Now at George Mason, students can take the remaining degree-specific coursework in cloud areas and end up with a Bachelor’s degree.

“The student benefit is that, built directly into their curriculum, they get access to AWS tools, and they gain real world experiences,” Michelle explained. 

Michelle also built a cloud concentration in partnership with AWS for students who want to start and end at Mason through their Bachelor’s of Information Technology program.

Incorporating Skills Credentials within a 4-Year Degree

“The concept of career has changed a lot,” Michelle said. “It used to be that you would get your education at the beginning of a career and potentially stay there for your entire career. Now the average person changes jobs 12 to 14 times, making the shelf life of knowledge shorter and shorter.”

Students in the cloud computing degree program get not only earn broad liberal arts skills, but the practical technical skills that allow them to get a running start.

“At NOVA, there’s been tremendous interest in the cloud computing Associate’s degree,” Michelle said.

The George Mason extension is rolling out in 2020.

“Over the last five years, George Mason has about 6,500 students enrolled in tech programs today. Almost 5,000 of those are undergraduates,” Michelle said.

This makes George Mason the largest producer of tech talent in the state and one of the largest producers of tech talent in the nation. And they’re aiming to double the number of students enrolled in tech fields.

The students want to study cloud, the business sector needs more cloud workers, and community colleges and universities are rushing to offer cloud courses.

Sounds like a win.

“The tech talent demand is so strong,” Michelle said.

“Many of our community colleges have very strong relationships with employers, so by reaching out to community colleges, not only will we find better ways to educate more students, but the employer relationships they’ve already built can be brought into four-year degrees,” she said.

Contact Dr. Marks directly by email at mmarks@gmau.edu.

This post was based on an episode of Enrollment Growth University podcast with Dr. Michelle Marks. To hear this and other great conversations, subscribe here.


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Eric Olsen

Eric brings more than a decade of award-winning creative brand development, marketing analytics and higher education experience to Helix Education. Eric is a graduate of Bradley University and earned his MBA at Lewis University.